My coworker has a lot of plants in her cube.  Yesterday she showed me a wasp that had been hanging around, she saw on the floor and stomped on it. 

That reminded me of a time many years ago when I worked on petroleum barges when I was in high school.  I had gone into Houston one hot summer afternoon to help with discharging gasoline from a barge to the refinery tanks.  The crew had been on the boat for a couple of weeks and were ready to take some time off.  Another guy from the shop who had his tankerman’s license was with me.  He would be responsible for discharging the product.  Since I was a mechanic, I thought I would help by warming up the 6-71 GM Diesel engine that powered the barge’s pump.

The pump engine was mounted on a metal skid and had a metal roof over it to protect it from the weather.  It was held in place with four pipes welded to the barge deck.  There was a driveshaft that went between the hand lever clutch and pump housing.  The pump engine’s starter was a hydraulic pump-up starter.  On a petroleum barge you cannot have an electric starter because of the fumes from the tanks.  To start the engine, I had to pump up hydraulic pressure with a pole. That got old fast, especially when the engine did not fire the first try. I brought a can of starter fluid which is basically ether, to spray into the air intake to increase the chance of the engine firing up on the first try. 

I pumped the hydraulic pressure up.  After stopping for a minute to catch my breath, I sprayed a shot of starter fluid into the air intake, then stepped on the button valve to spin the starter motor.  The engine coughed to life.  When the engine fired up, that shook the metal covering which upset a nest full of yellow jackets.  Suddenly a swarm of yellow jackets were heading my way.  My instinct was to spray them with the starter fluid.  To my surprise, the yellow jackets were dropping onto the barge deck as I hit them with the ether.  My co worker saw what was going on and yelled over the engine noise, “You better stomp on them!” I did not understand why he was saying that until the yellow jackets started waking up on the deck.  They were even more mad than before.  If someone across the Houston Ship Channel was looking, they would have thought I was dancing or something.  I was stomping and running at the same time.

Funny what triggers memories from a lifetime ago.  That must have been 50 years ago, and I had not thought of this instance since then.  When the memory presented itself, it was like it happened yesterday. There were good times and some not so good times working in the shipyards. Memories like these bring out some of those good times.